Thursday, April 10, 2014

Small Difference – Huge Distinction Part l

What was the point of Paul writing Galatians? Was Augustin, Calvin and Luther right, or are the “New Perspective on Paul” people closer to the truth? My conclusion is that the New Perspective people are definitely not right but, neither are many of those who have adopted the western view of Paul that was championed by Augustin and Luther. The title of this series speaks of nuance, and it seems that nuance is not something that evangelicals work well with. Especially those evangelicals that believe the bumper sticker which reads… “God said it – I believe it – and that settles it.”
The question that is raised is this; is this really what God said? This is the place that nuance comes into play. There is such a variety of evangelical doctrines that are often mutually exclusive. That alone should give pause to the bumper sticker crowd. With this in mind we will boldly move on into the discussion to identify the small difference that makes a huge distinction. What am I specifically speaking of here? The simple answer is the gospel.
Paul writes this in Galatians chapter one: Gal 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (7) which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  (8)  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” What were these different gospels?
In order to answer this question one has to read through Galatians’ chapters one and two. It becomes obvious in reading Galatians one and two that the different gospel demanded works of the law for justification. Galatians 2:21 states the most important factor in identifying the different and false gospel. It reads: Gal 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” The attribute that identified the true gospel was this. Righteousness *does not* come through the law. That means that one is not made righteous or declared righteous by adhering to the law.
This is precisely why I am so confident that the gospel that is preached today by most evangelicals is a different gospel. While it is true that many, if not most would say that righteousness does not come through obedience to the law, their actual practice negates that statement. This is where the small difference with a huge distinction comes into play. Nuance is the key word that I would use to explain this. It is my hope that this will help us embrace the actual gospel that Paul states was revealed to him by Jesus Christ.
This is the point where many are going to say the word antinomian with an accusatory tone. Hold your horses and wait for this series to be completed. Understand this however; Righteousness does not come through the law.  We do not receive righteousness by our obedience to the law. This is different than Old Covenant righteousness, and that is why the New Perspective people are simply off base. Deu 6:25  “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.” Old Covenant righteousness was connected with obedience to the commandments. Not so under the New Covenant and that is where nuance comes into play. This is the source of the small difference with a huge distinction.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Peace with God Produces the Transformation; Looking at Shalom

 Rom 5:1 NKJV Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Col 1:19-20 NKJV For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, (20) and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

I think that we can learn a lot about what God has done through Jesus Christ by understanding the meaning that God had given the Hebrews for the word Shalom. Peace is far more then an end of hostility and what we normally think of when we hear or say peace. The Strong's definition of Shalom should shed some light on the subject. Here is the definition as it is in the Strong's Lexicon,

H7965 shâlôm shâlôm  shaw-lome', shaw-lome' From H7999; safe, that is, (figuratively) well, happy, friendly; also (abstractly) welfare, that is, health, prosperity, peace: - X do, familiar, X fare, favour, + friend, X greet, (good) health, (X perfect, such as be at) peace (-able, -ably), prosper (-ity, -ous), rest, safe (-ly), salute, welfare, (X all is, be) well, X wholly.

Shalom has a far more holistic meaning than one would think. It includes safety, welfare, health, prosperity, peace etc. So then, one can rightly conclude that Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have safety, welfare, health, prosperity and peace with God." And, likewise, Col 1:20 says "and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made us safe, healthy, prosperous, at peace through the blood of His cross."
So then, when Paul says that Jesus *is our peace* he means that Jesus is our Shalom which is our safety, welfare, health, prosperity and peace. This precious gift and status is the source for all of the transformation that happens in the life of a saint.  However, to have this transformation really take place supernaturally, one has to understand and believe this concept. This is the source of love for God that translates into the desire to obey Him. There is more to say on this and we will develop the idea in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Faith cometh by hearing

Many of the blog posts here have been devoted to proving that Jesus and his first century followers changed the meaning of the phrase word of God from Torah to gospel. Jesus taught a uniquely redemptive purpose to the scripture. This is plainly proclaimed in John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:27; 43-45. In the past, I have issued a challenge, to take all of the verses in the New Testament with the phrase word of God in them, and to substitute either scripture or gospel in place of the phrase. When one does that it is easy to see that their meaning in using the phrase was gospel or Jesus the living gospel and not scripture. Again, please do not think that I am downplaying the scripture or its inspired status. I am not. I am rather showing the extent that Jesus taught his followers to go to in emphasizing and underscoring the redemptive purpose of the scripture.
With this in mind let’s turn our attention to Romans 10:17. In the KJV it reads, “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” So then, let me ask the question; did Paul mean that faith cometh by hearing scripture or gospel? Well, when you look at it in context it becomes rather obvious that he meant the gospel. The sentence could easily be stated that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the gospel of Christ.

Let’s take a look at this verse in some of the new versions of the scripture.

NASB “Rom 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

HCSB “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the

message about Christ.”

ESV “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” 

Why is that so? The answer is that there are a number of original Greek texts from which the translations are made, and further there are many variations within those texts. Some say word of God and some say word of Christ. The Byzantine Text or Textus Receptus which the KJV was translated from says word of God, but the Westcott Hort and the Nestle-Aland say word of Christ.  The Greek is as follows: It is the rhematos christou (word of Christ) or the (rhematos theou) the word of God.
         When one realizes that the first century apostles meant the gospel or the word of Christ when they wrote word of God it becomes less of a problem. The newer versions call it the word of Christ because the translating scholars believe that it is far more likely that the original scripture had the word of Christ in Romans 10:17. I believe that the original text could have had the word of God there but I have proven beyond doubt that in most cases in the New Testament, and in ALL cases from the book of Acts forward they meant gospel or Jesus the living gospel when they wrote the phrase word of God.
It does have interesting implications that go against the common explanation of this verse. Faith does not come from hearing just any ole scripture passage. Faith comes by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since rhematos (a variation of rhema) more rightly means spoken word, it would suggest that faith cometh by hearing the spoken word of Christ.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Accuser of the Brethren

Rev 12:10-12  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night.  (11)  They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.  (12)  Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time.”

One of the most debilitating phenomena that today’s saint faces is the accusations of the accuser of the brethren (brothers and sisters.) Yes, Satan is the consummate accuser. He uses the past to accuse us of shame and guilt. He uses the future to accuse us with fear.  Isn’t that something? We are ashamed of the past and we fear the future. That is why we should participate only in contemplating our now (present.) It is in the present that we can overcome the accuser by the blood of the lamb. It is something that can only be done in the now… now faith… now is the day of salvation. Salvation, redemption and sanctification always exist in the now.

The key to overcoming Satan, the accuser is applying the blood of the Lamb in the now. It is blood for every now. It is blood that was ordained before the foundation of the world. Think on that for a minute… before the foundation of the world. There are but a few passages of scripture that mention before the foundation of the world. These describe a time before anything was created. We ALWAYS find that these references are linked to redemption. In Ephesians 1:4 it mentions redemption, and in 1 Peter 1:18-20 it speaks of the blood of the Lamb that was purposed before the foundation of the world. That can only mean one thing. Redemption through the blood of the Lamb was God’s purpose in creation. He tells us of NOTHING else before the foundation of the world. How should that change our thinking? How should that make us view God’s love? How much peace should that engender?

Notice what it says in verse 12 of the above quoted passage from Revelation.   Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time.” Heaven Dwellers… that is not just those in heaven; I believe that it also includes those seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Where is our minds focused? Are we focused on the earth and the past and are we dreaming of the future? That focus is perfect for the accuser. He works with that focus. However, if we shift our minds to the reality that we are NOW seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, our focus makes it difficult for the accuser to mess with us.

Part one: More to come on this topic…

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Opening the scroll

Rev 5:6-9 NLT  “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.  (7)  He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne.  (8)  And when He took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people.  (9)  And they sang a new song with these words: "You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For You were slaughtered, and Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
There is a direct correlation between the above passage and the following one:
Luke 24:44-45 NLT  “Then He said, "When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled."  (45) Then He *opened their minds* to understand the Scriptures.”
Jesus had a specific way of looking at the scripture. He saw it as expressing his purpose and destiny. It is only in seeing the scripture as Jesus sees it that one can have the scripture opened. It is only opened when Jesus and the redemption that he brings is the sole focus of the scripture. All scripture must be viewed with the understanding that Jesus is Lord and Christ and the sole purpose of the scripture.
Paul puts it another way in this passage: 2Co 3:14-16 NRSV  “But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.  (15)  Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;  (16)  but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” Notice that the veil is only removed with a Christ-centered approach to reading and understanding the scripture.
That is one of the main obstructions to revelation knowledge today in the church. To really truly understand the scripture in the way that it was meant one must see the redemptive gospel focus. The passage that I quoted above from second Corinthians ends with an explanation of the ministry of reconciliation. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting trespasses. He made Jesus who knew no sin to be made sin for sinful humanity so that reconciled humanity could be the righteousness of God in Christ and be at peace with God.
Peace with God is the most important aspect of truly loving God. The Shema, Deu 6:4-6 NRSV  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.  (5)  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  (6)  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” Jesus said that this was the first and greatest commandment. i.e, loving God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might.
This commandment can only be fulfilled when one is set at peace with God because of the grace found in Jesus Christ. The scripture will only be opened when one understands the gospel of grace in its fullness and ties all the reading and teaching and preaching to it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Concise Statement of the Biblical Redemptive Narrative

What is the gospel? The question is based upon the observation that Jesus and his first century followers that wrote the New Testament redefined the phrase word of God to mean either the gospel or, Jesus the living gospel from the book of Acts forward. Assuming that the apostolic writings meant gospel in using the phrase word of God it is very reasonable to try to understand what they meant by that. I further believe that it is reasonable to see the gospel as being the reader’s digest version of the redemptive narrative.
Ephesians 1:4 states that this gospel purpose was birthed before the foundation of the world, and therefore, is the first consideration of God in creation. The wording of Paul in Ephesians 1:3-14 must lead to the conclusion that redemption was the first purpose of creation. There is nothing in the biblical narrative that predates this other than John 1:1-5. John 1:1 states in the beginning (en arche) and assumes that God, and His Word were there prior to Ephesians 1:4. However, Ephesians 1:4 explains the purpose set forth in creation.
With this in mind, one of the most concise statements of the biblical narrative is Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 5. (2Co 5:18-21 NRSV)  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;  (19)  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  (20)  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (21)  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The thrust of the gospel narrative that we are responsible to deliver is simply that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, making the one who knew no sin to be made sin for us, that we in turn might become the righteousness of God in Him. We are to exhort people to be reconciled to God. The redemptive narrative is the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, we are to exhort people to understand they are at peace with God because of Christ (Rom 1:5.)
This peace with God exists so that we might love God with all our heart, soul, and might. The love for God will promote our ability to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are prompted in our minds to ask about whom our neighbor might be, we are given the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbor may well be someone who hates us.
Likewise, peace with God will be the catalyst for obedience to God. All of the commandments are encapsulated in the idea that we will love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It will only flow from true peace with God which the writer of Hebrews expressed as the Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:1-11.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The uncompromised word of God

You often hear people refer to the uncompromised word of God. What do they generally mean when they use that phrase? Most of the time when they use the phrase, they mean, they teach the bible uncompromised. Is that a correct understanding of the phrase? I don’t think so; especially, if they are a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. The reason is that Jesus defined the word of God as the gospel, and he taught his first century followers to do the same. If you look at the New Testament writings you will find that predominately in the gospels, and exclusively from Acts forward, whenever you read the phrase *the word of God,* they always mean the gospel, the good news.

The follower of Jesus should then concentrate on the good news as it is presented in the scripture. When someone tells you that you should get the word of God inside you, and have it become a part of your DNA… if you are a follower of Jesus, then you should make sure that you get the gospel (good news) on the inside of you and have it become a part of your DNA.

So then you ask, what is the gospel? Galatians explains that according to the scripture the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal 3:8.) What was the gospel that was preached to Abraham? The short answer is this… “that in Abraham’s Seed all the nations of the world would be blessed.” Galatians 3:16 explains that the promised seed of Abraham was Jesus Christ. This is how it becomes the gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice that we do not find out that the Seed is Jesus in Genesis. Revelation is progressive.

How is the world blessed by the Seed of Abraham? The answer is that Jesus reconciled the world back to the Father on the cross. His birth, death, and resurrection is the good news that reconciled humanity to Father God. This is what brings peace with the Father (Rom 5:1.) But, Galatians 3:29 explains that if one is in Christ, they are then Abraham’s Seed and heirs according to the promise. This is also part of the good news. The blessings of Abraham are for believers.

This means that the blessings in Deuteronomy 28 are blessings for all those who are *in Christ.* this means that believers are automatically blessed in the city and the country; they are blessed when they come and go. They are the head and not the tail, they are above and not beneath. This is really a birthright of the new birth. When one is born again, at the new birth, they become Abraham’s Seed in Christ, and heirs of the blessings of Abraham.  

So what does this have to do with the uncompromised word of God you ask? The uncompromised word of God is the uncompromised gospel. It is the fact that the believer is the righteousness of God in Christ. God made us convenantally right in Christ and we are in line for the blessings. How did Abraham receive the blessing in the first place? Look at this passage of scripture… Gen 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” By the same token, we receive the blessing by believing the report (Isa 53:1.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The “No Weapon” Promise

Isa 54:17 NKJV “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me," Says the LORD.” 

The only way that this promise is to you and for you is if you are resting in *the righteousness of God* provided as a free gift for trusting in Jesus. The reason is that the righteousness of God is the defense against the weapons of the enemy. Who is the enemy? In Revelation chapter 12 he is called the accuser of the brethren. In fact, he accuses them day and night before the Lord. What are the accusations used? They are always a form of the statement “you can’t be righteous because.”  The accuser of the brethren and sisters too… brethren was meant to be all believers… accuses us by suggesting that we are not really righteous.  He assaults the idea that we have been declared righteous by God and therefore are the very righteousness of God. Look at the verse in the amplified Bible: (Isa 54:17 Amp)  “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord.” The righteousness of God is your heritage. It is your inheritance.

So then, the very foundation for your righteousness before God is based upon the free gift given by grace and grace alone. If, you are not 100% sold out to belief in your righteousness because God has declared it, the weapons will come, and come, and come and they will prosper. The reason for defeat in so many saints’ lives is this cause. They are not really, truly resting in the righteousness of God. The Sabbath Rest, Hebrews 4:10, is important in not allowing weapons, formed by the enemy to prosper. Our justification and our peace with God (Romans 5:1) is the source of our warfare.

When we believe that our righteousness is from our good works, that we are acceptable to God by our works, we always open the door for accusation. Accusation is Satan’s weapon of choice. Since we know that we do not stack up favorably before a Holy God with our righteous acts we always feel condemnation and failure. This is the place where the enemy of our souls finds the most effective weapons to use against us. However, when we truly rest in the righteousness of God provided for us as a free and unmerited gift, we can put to flight the enemies accusations. We merely need to declare what God has already decreed about us and Satan must flee. His weapons lose their power.